GTA: Vice City - PS2 review

We all knew that GTA was a good game. Back in the day with the top down view, stealing stupidly fast cars to run over people on the pavement, whilst making a few bucks and failing the missions. After various sequels, which added a little, but not a lot, Vice City really takes the torch and runs a long way with it. GTA deserves its cult crown: Vice City is simply superb.

There has been something of a running conflict in platform for GTA. The PlayStation version of the original was so-so, but the PC version was excellent to the extent where is really absorbed all your daylight hours and most of the night. For Vice City, the console really reigns supreme. The PlayStation 2 strides forward in the console market, proving once again, why it sells like hot cakes. PlayStation 2, despite having the worst geeky stats in the console market, still remains the most popular. Games like GTA: Vice City prove this time and again, and console exclusivity tends to hammer the point home.

So what’s the game about? For those living on the moon for the past 5 years, read on, for everyone else, skip to the next paragraph. Grand Theft Auto is about a dude, Tommy Vercetti, you. A jack of all criminal trades. A gun-toting hardman, with a penchant for crime, from the petty to the more serious. Your aim, basically, is to make as much money as possible by whatever means. It may be from stealing cars, robbing people in the street, or more likely, accepting jobs from various daddies around Vice City: you do the job, they line your pockets, simple. You get your hands dirty, they don’t.

GTA: Vice City brings back all the elements we loved in the original. The perspective takes advantage of the use of 3D, rather than the top down view. It is more first-person shooter in perspective. The camera does a fairly good job of showing you the view you want to see. Yes, you can change the view slightly, in the age-old style of driving games, but not to a great extent. It can sometimes become confusing when you turn Tommy round, and the camera stays in the same place. You then find yourself running away in the wrong direction and such like. A small point and something you do get used to once you learn the quirks of the game.

But this game wouldn’t be one of the fastest selling titles ever without that all important ingredient: violence. You get bucketloads and then some. There’s so much gratuitous violence that even my girlfriend can see the funny side. Soldier of Fortune got a reputation for blood-squirting gore, and Vice City follows suit. None of this bloodless fighting - if you hack someone with a cleaver, there is claret all over the place. If you drive over someone, you can spread their blood along the road. You leave bloody footprints. It’s all there. As you give your victim a shoeing on the pavement, sorry … ‘sidewalk’, a pool of blood forms. I can understand why people might say that it’s excessive, it is. At least it doesn’t beat around the bush and the 18 certificate isn’t merely PR. Street fighting comes into its own in Vice City and the range of weapons is impressive: go to the tool shop and pick up anything from a screw-driver to a chainsaw; go to the gun shop, buy yourself a shotgun. Alternatively, beat it out of a policeman. You’ll soon be tooled up, and the more the better. I think my personal favourite is the golf club. You can literally spend hours walking around killing people. I know it sounds immoral and that’s not very savvy these days, but it is a computer game. Tessa Jowell may hate it, but at least I’m doing it at home, not out in the street.

Once again the range of vehicles is impressive. All have pseudo-names, but you soon get the idea - a ‘Stallion’ is perhaps a Mustang, and a ‘Faggio’ a Piaggio. There are vehicles of all description waiting to be stolen. Firemen on strike? No problem, steal the engine, do the job yourself. There is a range of DIY missions you can activate by stealing the right vehicle - steal a police car and go on vigilante missions, a taxi, and you can earn a reasonable wage. There are a number of ramp like objects in places, from which you can jump. Do something impressive, and you can earn stunt bonuses, especially on the stupidly fast motorbikes. The number of in-game games seems endless, and can always distract you from the business end of doing missions.

The missions are many and varied. Like GTAIII you’ll have other sets of mini missions running alongside the storyline which you can dip into as you wish. There are a number of different people you can work for, sometimes in tandem. Remember to save as you go along. The game seems pretty good at knowing what you are doing. If you fail on a mission, it might provide a taxi for you to get back to the start of the mission. The cut-scenes are good, not the best graphically, but liberal use of profanity raises a snigger. Don’t be fooled - the missions are not always easy - some are, some not. There is often an easy way and a hard way. Sometimes it seems impossible. Like flying the remote controlled helicopter into a building to drop bombs. You do it, eventually.

So what else is there to cover, without spoiling the entire game? The law. That’s right, the po-lice. The good guys. There doesn’t seem to be a problem with bobbies on the beat: Red Ken would be ecstatic. As before, the level of police interest is measured in stars. One star, not too bad, just run away. Three stars, you need to do something about it. Five stars, enjoy the shootout, you will die, but the chases will keep you enthralled for hours just like part III. In fact, playing with the police is one of the best features of the game. In the same breath, it can be one of the most frustrating; you’re on the verge of completing that killer mission and you get busted for driving over a copper. C’est la vie. The levels of police response are quite funny. Firstly Mr Policeman will chase you. Perhaps he will put a couple of shots your way. Then his friends will join in. Then you find yourself unable to drive around, because of the flak you are getting from police cars. Things at this stage can flip both ways: either you hit a respray shop and get away, or you continue about your business and things get worse. As the police hassle you, the first instinct is to ram them off the roads, drive over the sucker pumping lead your way, or shoot back so you can escape. Do this, and you get more attention. The next step is the helicopter and the SWAT team, and the unmarked cars start ramming you off the road, then the conspicuous FBI van. Once you reach this stage, getting away is difficult. If you can drive, you can still lead a good chase. Play with the law, it’s great fun. Of course, you are in a virtually consequence free environment, so waste ‘em, and see what happens

Verdict

Vice City provides so many avenues of gameplay it's difficult to get bored. The soundtrack is also great: many 80s classics that even younger twentysomethings will recognise. Sometimes you will do an extra lap of the block before getting out of the car, just to hear the end of the song. Sad, I know. The only real problem with Vice City is its competition: The Getaway. The future of violent gangster gameplay looks secure. As long as the developers keep out-doing each other, we'll keep playing the games. Oh, and Ray Liotta supplies the voiceover. For anyone who might want more, we can only point you in the PC Version's direction where, just like GTAIII there are all manner of modifications and adjustments to almost every facet of the game if you've completed the storyline.